UK could change stance on Christian ‘persecution’ in Pakistan
Evidence given by Christians from Pakistan this morning could be used to change the UK’s stance on whether they are being persecuted.
The All Party Parliamentary Group for International Freedom of Religion or Belief is hosting a meeting in London, to establish whether the treatment of Christians in Pakistan amounts to discrimination or a real risk of persecution.
Currently, the Home Office deems them to suffer discrimination which is not sufficient to amount to a real risk of persecution.
This is based on a legal precedent set in a ‘Country Guidance’ case at the Supreme Court in 2014.
The case, called ‘AK and SK’ related to two Pakistani Christian asylum claimants. It was ruled that: ‘Christians in general are permitted to practise their faith, can attend church, participate in religious activities and have their own schools and hospitals’, and therefore were not at a real risk of persecution.
This decision remains the standard policy on which asylum applications are considered.
However, Katharine Thane, Operations Director of the All Party Parliamentary Group for International Freedom of Religion or Belief is unsure whether the ruling is correct.
“If you disagree with the views or beliefs of the people around you and you make this known, you are quite often attacked or at least discriminated against; in schooling and in access to healthcare for example.”
Ms Thane told Premier the Home Office’s stance could be making Christians in Pakistan more vulnerable: “If we find that it is even putting some Christians in danger we will be asking the Home Office to change it.
“One of the big changes that could happen is to come up with some kind of formula that does not state that all Christians are, or are not, persecuted because of their beliefs. I don’t think it is a one size fits all; it is a case by case basis and this will ensure that those who are in real risk of persecution are protected.
“We want to make sure that those who are genuinely vulnerable are being let in [to the UK] or looked after.”
Christian minority groups are giving evidence to the hearing, which will be attended by Home Office officials.